Univ.-Prof. Dr. Christian Tedjasukmana
Attention Strategies of Video Activism on the Social Web
Collaborative research group at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, the Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms-University of Bonn, and the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation
Videos on social media have become powerful means of political action and of influencing public discourses. Videos on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and numerous other platforms are clicked on billions of times every day, and hundreds of hours of additional moving images pour in every minute. They spread messages quickly and effectively, move their audiences emotionally, and motivate them to act, to donate, protest, or vote.
The fact that extremist and populist political actors use the power of moving images with great success is much discussed. Less well known, however, is the "video activism" of civil society actors who are concerned with issues such as human rights, democratic participation, social and climate justice. These include NGOs such as Greenpeace, social movements like Black Lives Matter and Fridays for Future, individual influencers like ContraPoints, video collectives such as Reel News, and tactical media groups like Peng! For them, to draw attention to their concerns and to form counterpublics, they must assert themselves against entertainment, propaganda, and PR in the competitive attention economy of the social web. To do this, they are developing novel strategies for producing and disseminating political videos, and especially for shaping them in novel and diverse forms that contribute to their proliferation online.
The research project "Attention Strategies of Video Activism on the Social Web" is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and is conducted by Chris Tedjasukmana (Mainz), Jens Eder (Babelsberg), Britta Hartmann (Bonn), and Tobias Gralke (Bonn). In the project, we investigate new video forms, distribution modes, and production alliances in the competition for public perception and political impact. One goal of the project is to educate about these developments and contribute to audiovisual media literacy.
We have documented our research findings in our book Bewegungsbilder. Politische Videos in Sozialen Medien (2020, in German). It summarizes the results to date in a concise and comprehensible manner; for the first time, it offers an overview of the field of political videos. In 2022, we will publish an extended book on Political Videos on Social Media in English. Current video analyses and information also appear regularly on our website.
Laura Katharina Mücke, M.A.
Dissertation Project: Anti | Immersion. Eine kritisch-diskursive Annäherung an die ‚all-inclusiveness“ medialer Erfahrungsbegriffe (AT) [Anti | Immersion. A critical-discursive approach to the 'all-inclusiveness' of medial concepts of experience.]
Supervision: Prof. Dr. Lisa Gotto (Universität Wien), Prof. Dr. Julian Hanich (Universität Groningen)
Considering the contemporary enthusiasm for the immersive possibilities of media experience, in which the immediate contact between medium and user seems almost indispensable, the potential of an opposing process has been pushed into the background: the factor of distancing - or even: the possibility of refusing these experiences. With the title ‚Anti | Immersion‘, this work proposes a new approach to the almost omnipotent experiential concept of immersion, which attaches the politically motivated question of the simultaneous creation of distance to the proximity-generating process of immersion.
This work assumes that both the notion of anti-immersion and that of immersion co-act as internalized and highly polarizing beliefs about media effects on users: They polarize in terms of the simultaneous possibilities that media offer and in terms of the fears that circulate about the efficacy of media per se. And it is always both anti-immersion notions and immersion notions that coexist in our thinking and talking about media effects. The project therefore proposes a method of analysis that always seeks out "immersion" in its very concrete discursive situatednesses, asking: who actually talks about the fact that a media experience "is" immersive, why, when, where, and in relation to what or whom? For: why a medium appears as immersive is not only dependent on the dispositions of the users or the media dispositif, but also on which aesthetics find uses, which in turn are based on ideas about how media should (or should not) work. The fact that both anti-immersion and immersion function as diagnostic terms for relationships between users and media (and between users themselves) is revealed in the work by drawing on viewers' experiences in very different media situations.
A case study examines reports on the experiences of users of early German film/cinema (1907-1912) and shows, for example, how strongly descriptive terms were developed via immersion experiences (and depicted immersion experiences), which still contribute to legislation in dealing with media today. And how women, children, the unemployed and migrants in particular were understood as being particularly 'susceptible' to immersion. Another case study analyzes what it can mean to refuse "the medium" or "the media experience", especially when a reassurance of one's own identity in the face of the medium emerges from the refusal. A third case study traces beliefs about media effects in so-called "social media immersions" on TikTok, where immersion and anti-immersion are appropriated not only as mechanisms of action of algorithms, but also as aesthetic forms of design and user-engagement processes or public formations.
This work thus moves the ontological discussions of "cinematic" or "media" experiences as "art experiences" more in the direction of the question of the long-standing coexistent intertwining of aesthetic experiences with everyday experiences - while at the same time acknowledging the specific framedness (frame) that media entail in terms of how they appear to us as "reality" and "unreality" at the same time. For the critique of previous conceptualization of immersion, this means, on the one hand, questioning supposedly self-explanatory notions of speaking about media experiences. But it also means - and this is where the central gain of the work should lie - to take media experience terms per se seriously as politically informed (and not universally acting) ways of speaking of location in everyday life and in the lifeworlds of users.